ALBUQUERQUE, N.M — Open seven days a week, Tim's Place is one of the most unique restaurants in the country. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch but is known for something special: hugs.
Located in Albuquerque, N.M., Tim's Place is owned by Tim Harris, a 27-year-old man with Down syndrome.
"When he was about 14-years-old he told us that someday he was going to own a restaurant. After we all gulped and gasped, we began to take him seriously," said Keith Harris, Tim's father said in an AOL "You've Got" video. "The result is history in the making."
During high school, Harris worked as a host at a Red Robin restaurant in Albuquerque. He learned how to welcome guests to a restaurant, and eventually developed a loyal following of customers. He went to school at Eastern New Mexico University and graduated in 2008 with certificates in Food Service and Office Skills, working in various restaurants during his time at school.
After college, Harris worked as a host in an Applebee's restaurant in Albuquerque. Shortly after, the idea of Tim's Place emerged and the doors opened in June of 2010.
"As far as we know, we have not yet found another person with Down syndrome in this country that owns their own restaurant," said Jeannie Harris, Tim's mother. "We hope that other people will, though."
The restaurant specializes in New Mexican fare but the most important thing in the restaurant isn't the food, according to Harris, it's the hugs. Trademarked the Tim Hug, the "calorie-free" and "guilt-free" treat that, according to the menu description, guarantees to "improve your lease on life."
"My favorite part of all is the people coming through that front door. Sometimes customer's get sad, so I give them a hug and they feel a lot better," Harris said. "The hugs are way more important than the food."
Harris keeps a record of all the hugs given in the restaurant on a hug counter that hangs on the wall. The total thus far exceeds 32,000.
"Ever since I stopped in after reading the 'Now Open' sign, I've been coming here once a week," Michelle Garth-Jones, a Tim's Place regular, told KRQUE 13 last year. "I love local restaurants, and this particular one has a story that stays with you."
Harris is also an accomplished Special Olympian, winning dozens of gold medals, according to the Tim's Place website. Those medals are hung in the restautant among newspaper articles and photographs.
Tim's Place has been featured by AOL.com’s video series You’ve Got, the On The Road with Steve Hartman segment of the CBS Evening News, KRQE New Mexico Works, and the May 21, 2012, issue of People Magazine.
"I do not let my disability crush my dreams. People with disabilities can do anything they set their minds to," Harris said. "We're special. We're a gift to the world."
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